Chapter 1: Prologue
I think I'm gonna win this time
I roll and I roll, 'til I change my luck
The sound through the flimsy door was muted, but he could almost feel it like a physical force, pressing on him, threatening to break through and swallow him whole. The restless tap tap tap of his own foot wasn’t helping, nerves seeming to surge through his body in pulses that made him slightly sick to his stomach.
The temporary dressing room added to the sudden feeling of something that he couldn’t name. The walls were bare, an off white sectioned with metal that reminded him that he wasn’t home, wasn’t where he wanted to be right in this very moment.
He was ready for this, more than. He’d been wanting this for years, been fighting for it the entire time until he’d almost worn himself down, but just in this moment, he needed to feel grounded.
He knew what he needed, and it was a harsh realisation to think that maybe he’d never have it again, that maybe he was about to ruin everything by admitting, live to thousands of people, that they’d been right all along.
Their fans had gotten a substantial amount correct; the relationships that were faked, the two of them being kept apart by their management for being too close, too affectionate, the social media control and all the stories planted in the papers in their attempts to ruin them. Most of all though, there had been people who had always known that the overwhelming feeling of love, passion, commitment, and home was there all along.
They just hadn’t known it was one sided.
He sighed, jolting slightly in the flimsy chair when his phone vibrated harshly on the plastic table, shocking him enough that he almost knocked the whole thing over. He swore, scrambling to pick up his phone as it kept going, and when he realised who it was, who was trying to call him at a time when he was a split second from passing out, everything lifted, and he took a deep breath.
Even in the dim light of his phone screen, sitting in what he knew to be Harry’s lounge room with tired eyes and hair falling softly around his face, Harry was exactly what he needed.
Just like he knew he would be.
“Lou! How are you feeling? You look fit.”
It startled a laugh out of Louis now that his chest felt free enough for movement, and he grinned, leaning forward to carefully balance his phone against a water bottle.
“Hi, love.” He could see his own face soften in the corner of the screen, desperately holding in his eye roll as he folded his hands in front of him. “Your timing was perfect.”
Harry snorted, shifting on screen, and Louis could see the rainbow ‘Treat People With Kindness' embroidered across his hoodie. He shot a quick glance at the matching one stuffed in his open duffel.
“What, you think I don’t know you well enough to know the exact timeframe before a concert that you feel like you’ll vomit? Give me some credit.”
Louis heard the knocking at the door, but he ignored it in favour of staring at his best friend through the slightly pixelated stream. His best friend for the last 9 years, his favourite person in the world, the love of his life.
A feeling that wasn’t returned, no matter how much Louis wished it could be.
Best friends had always been enough.
“Maybe we need to spend less time together, then,” he shot back, but his grin rivalled Harry’s before he watched his bottom lip jut out in a pout.
He only had so much self-control though, and it was the only sliver of time during the entire day that he’d been glad Harry wasn’t there. It was hard enough not to kiss him on a normal day, no matter where they were; in Harry’s kitchen when he laughed with his head thrown back, at Louis’ house after Harry left some kind of bullshit, high class event and all Louis wanted to do was ruin every Gucci suit he owned so he’d have nothing to wear, or at a restaurant, hidden in the back as Harry smirked over a glass of wine, lips wine stained and infuriating.
“If we spent any less time together, we’d hardly see each other.”
“We see each other so often that I’m surprised you’re not sick of me, darling,” Louis mused, calling out when he heard another knock. He waved when Liam slipped into the room before he turned back to Harry. “Are you gonna watch?”
“Wouldn’t miss it, Lou. I’ve already got a live stream up, see?” Harry turned his phone around to show the video streaming on his flat screen, and Louis felt almost home sick at the sight.
He grinned at Harry as Liam came up behind him. “I don’t go on for a while, you know.”
“I didn’t want to risk it.”
Louis’ heart leapt into his throat, but Liam saved the moment before it could strangle the noise threatening to escape.
“Harry! How are you, mate?” Liam’s hands clasped down on Louis’ shoulders, squeezing reassuringly, but Louis was a bit too far gone now.
“Hey Payno,” Harry grinned, waving through the screen. “Hope you’re looking after him.”
Louis tuned out slightly as they chatted, his fingers running absentmindedly over the 28 tattooed on his hand. He’d had to lie earlier, a standard reason why he had the numbers there, but no one needed to know the real reason, not even Harry. Kiwi playing over the speakers hadn’t helped keep him still, though.
“Alright Haz, sorry but I gotta take him from ya.” Liam’s voice was suddenly jarring, his fingers digging into Louis’ shoulder, and Louis frowned when it hit him that maybe this was it.
It might be the last time Harry would talk to him without some kind of awkward tension or silence, the last time he’d get to see him smile or giggle in a way that was purely for Louis. All terrifying possibilities the moment Harry took one second to listen to the lyrics he’d written just for him.
“Lou? You okay? I’m so proud of you.”
He sounded almost choked up when he spoke, Louis knew he did, but there was nothing to be done now. “Yeah, love. I’m okay.” He smiled, but he noticed Harry’s eyebrows lift when it didn’t reach his eyes. “I’ll talk to you after, yeah? Love you.”
Liam’s sharp intake of breath was obvious, sudden in the stillness of the conversation, but if Harry heard it or noticed the different tone in Louis’ voice, the sincere way he said it, he didn’t mention it.
“I love you too. We’ll talk later, I’ll call you straight after, I promise. Just breathe, Lou, and everything will be perfect.”
Well. It was easy for Harry to think that when he had no idea what was coming.
As soon as he was gone, Louis’ phone screen went black once more, and Liam pulled up the second chair and sat right across from him.
“You sure about this, Tommo?”
“Positive. It’s been long enough.”
“Even though it could change everything?”
“Especially then.” Louis’ fingers were fidgeting now, twisting slightly in his lap.
Liam was studying him carefully, his expression cautious. “And Harry? You’re ready for him to know?”
Louis stares at the rope inked into his wrist as his thumb rubbed over it soothingly. “It’s been long enough,” he repeated.
“Good. Let’s go, mate.”
Louis stood up, hands shaking slightly as he fiddled with his collar before Liam reached out to fix it for him. Everything seemed slightly numb as they walked backstage, and they stood in silence while they waited. Louis looked up to see Liam smiling down at his phone, could hear the screams of the crowd, and before he could thank him for being there, it was time, and Louis was drifting towards the stage.
Now or never, he supposed.
He let himself drown in the screams of the crowd, the adrenaline starting in his toes until he was bouncing where he stood. It could’ve been overwhelming, should’ve been, but then his wandering eyes fell on something he’d wished desperately would be here.
A rainbow flag.
It wasn’t just a rainbow flag, though. Even in the sly glance he’d taken, the white writing had stood out as clear as anything.
He closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and let himself think of Harry.
Chapter 2: One
I'm feeling something deep inside
Hotter than a jet stream burning up
His fringe wasn’t cooperating at all. It was a chaotic mess, a tangle of strands that seemed to match what he was feeling as a nervous energy pulsed through him so strongly he thought he might be sick. He’d performed before in front of people, he could do this.
He stepped back from the mirror with a slight frown, trying desperately to smooth down his hair, and when he’d just managed to get it perfect, the bathroom door slammed open. Louis jumped, his fingers roughing through his fringe with the movement, and he groaned when he realised it’d just made everything worse again.
Louis shot a small glance at the door and then went to fix his hair, but his eyes snapped back when he realised who it was.
“Hi! You’re Harry, right?” Louis stepped back from the sink, wiping his hands on his clothes before moving closer.
He was staring at Louis, a slight blush on his face, and all Louis could focus on was green.
“I - yeah, ‘m Harry.” He reached forward to shake Louis’ hand, curls bouncing when he nodded. “I’m so sorry, have we met?”
It took Louis a beat too long to realise they were just standing there staring at each other now, the warm fluorescents flickering above doing nothing to calm the race of his heart. Harry’s hand was soft, his curls looking softer still, and for the first time in Louis’ life, he craved the feeling of a boy’s hair running through his fingers.
He shook his head to clear it. “No, I just heard you singing before, heard ‘em introduce you.” Louis’ voice took on a shy tone he wasn’t used to, something unfamiliar that accompanied the flush racing through his body. “Your voice is brilliant,” he admitted, watching intently when a sweet blush spread across Harry’s face.
“Thank you, but I don’t know how I really went.” Harry’s brow furrowed, and even the bustle from outside the door couldn’t distract Louis from the boy in front of him.
He suddenly had an intense urge to reach out and smooth the wrinkles with his thumb, let his fingertips trail gently over his forehead, stroke his cheek painstakingly slow and carefully pull his bottom lip out from between his teeth.
What the fuck was happening?
“You were brilliant,” Louis promised, unable to find another word, his hands clenching into fists by his sides to stop from reaching out, heart stuttering in his chest when Harry grinned at him and dimples popped in his cheeks.
There was a whispered thanks and a bashful head tilt, and Louis couldn’t comprehend how this boy didn’t realise the voice that he had. He seemed young, younger than Louis, but there was no lingering swell of jealousy or ill thoughts; just a want to let Harry know that he was better than he seemed to think he was.
“Hey, maybe I can grab your autograph while we’re in here, like, I knew you before you were famous,” Louis announced to the eerily quiet room, arms flying up in emphasis, pleased when Harry’s dimples deepened. “C’mon love, I’ve got paper in me bag.”
The pet name had fallen from his lips so easily for this boy he’d just met, and while he couldn’t explain it, didn’t dare to, there was an almost tangible tension, a soft pulse through the room that screamed to him that something wonderful was happening.
He just didn’t know what it was, couldn’t put his finger on it yet, but it settled warmly in his stomach as he passed Harry a pen and his notebook. He couldn’t keep the grin off his face as Harry signed his name with a flourish, but it didn’t matter; there was a matching one on Harry’s face, and the feeling weaving through his soul confused him more.
It didn’t have a name when Louis blurted everything out to his mum as soon as he was back, and she smiled with a twinkle in her eye and just said Harry sounded lovely.
He still hadn’t figured it out when they were put into a group together, and Harry had caught Louis and spun him around as soon as he’d leapt into his arms.
It seemed too complicated a thing still when Louis realised that Harry brought a feeling of calm affection with him wherever he went that made Louis want to crawl into his lap and set up home.
There was a twinge of recognition in Louis’ soul every time that they touched, every time that Louis ran a hand through Harry’s curls like he’d desperately wanted to since they met. He’d been right, of course; soft, addictive. Everything about Harry was soft, and the way that made Louis ache was still unrecognisable, this beautiful boy with a genuine soul.
His heart responded frantically whenever Harry threw himself into his lap, wrapped his arms around his waist, or even just smiled at him, dimples deepening when Louis pushed his finger into them. He’d always been confident, sure of himself, a leader, but Harry made him confused and fuzzy, his mind in a constant state of protection and denial with what was happening in his heart until it was screaming at him.
It had started to make sense when they’d stayed up all night at Harry’s bungalow, curled up into each other and speaking in hushed tones about their hopes and dreams, squished onto a single mattress while the other boys slept peacefully around them. The depth of what he was feeling startled him the first time that Harry had been close enough to kiss, eyes wide and staring at Louis with a challenge that he couldn’t comprehend as Louis’ palms sweated.
There’d been no denying it then.
Louis chewed his thumb nail absentmindedly as he waited, the ringing in his ear an odd soundtrack to the boys playing football in the backyard. Niall had just dived spectacularly for seemingly no reason when the rings finally stopped, and his mum’s voice echoed down the line.
“Hi, sweetheart. How are you?”
“’m good, ‘m alright.” His eyes were focused on the football as it sailed across the grass between the boys; Liam to Niall, then to Harry as he stumbled. Liam grabbed it, passed it to Zayn before it rolled along the grass to Niall. It was almost monotonous, the way he watched. He could see everything happening, the black and white striking against the deep green of the ground, but he couldn’t focus on it. Maybe he could convince them to –
“Louis? You only just called and you’re already distracted, is everything alright?” She sounded concerned, but only just, and Louis let himself stay distracted at the cackle Harry let out across the lawn.
He took a deep breath, and realised that it might be best to just jump right in. “Kind of. I think I – I’m not sure what to think about it, but I think Harry might – no, I think I might want – ,” he cut himself off with a frustrated sound, tipping his head back to land against the tree behind him with a soft thud as he slouched against the wood.
It was difficult, he realised now, to explain something that he still wasn’t sure he understood. He knew what it was, couldn’t ignore it anymore, but that didn’t make it easier to wrap his head around. He didn’t know how to talk about the fact that this felt like more than anything he’d ever felt, wasn’t sure how to casually say to his mum ‘oh, I think I have a crush on a boy for the first time in my life. Is that okay?’, when he hadn’t even come to terms with it.
Maybe he didn’t need to worry so much.
“What about Harry, sweetheart?” Her voice was soft, and Louis realised that she already knew, had probably figured it out the second he’d first mentioned Harry back at auditions.
“I don’t know what to do, Mum,” he whispered, eyes squeezed shut against the voices in his head. “I’ve never – this has never happened before.” He could hear her shuffling around on the other end of the line, focused on it to stop the frustrated tears from falling.
“That’s okay though, Boobear. Do you have feelings for Harry? Is that’s what’s got you all in a mess?”
He paused for a split second, but pushed on. “Yeah, yeah I do.” He chewed on his nail again, examining the laces on Liam’s shoes at the backdoor. “Is that alright?”
There was soft laughter, but it wasn’t teasing or cruel. It was comforting and warm, and Louis instantly felt relieved. “Of course that’s alright, love. More than alright. You know I love Harry.”
He wiped at his cheeks, surprised when he noticed that the tears had fallen anyway, and before he could reply, Harry was in front of him, reaching out in concern even as he struggled to keep his distance.
“Mum, ‘ve gotta go, Haz is here.” Louis stepped forward slightly, smiling softly at Harry to let him know it was okay, that he wanted him closer.
“Okay okay, I get it. I’ll talk to you later. Just remember, all I want is for you to be happy, and you deserve that.”
The second Louis had said a choked up good-bye and gotten off the phone, Harry had bounded forward and wrapped Louis up in his arms, pulling him against his chest and squeezing him tight.
“You okay?” Harry pulled back with a frown, and then his hands were coming up to wipe the tears from Louis’ cheeks, and everything inside him lit up.
Louis pushed into the touch. “Yeah, Haz. I’m okay.”
It was all a blur after that, for a while. Performances and practices, trips to different places and video diaries, stylists and voice coaches and Simon. There were text messages from his mum telling him, in her teasing way, that the way he felt for Harry was written plainly across his face in every interaction; every diary, every performance, every results show.
Louis was incredibly grateful for the opportunity, for the chance to get up on stage in front of thousands of people and sing with four other boys that he was quickly growing more and more attached to. It was amazing, exhilarating, seemingly impossible when people started to scream for them, but it was everything he’d always wanted.
The desperate want to kiss Harry hadn’t faded, seemed to have only grown as they’d become more affectionate and in tune with each other. It was like he could feel a connection with him, something that felt like a part of himself in Harry, like it was fate that they met. Louis had tried to shake it, to tell himself that soulmates weren’t real, that he didn’t believe in shit like this no matter what he wanted, but then he’d found out that they’d been at the same concert for the Script, and he was gone.
Fate, he told himself every time that Harry snuck into his bunk to cuddle up to sleep, or whenever one of the boys made a joke about the two of them that just caused Harry to giggle and burrow his face in Louis’ neck.
He’d successfully managed to shove his sexuality crisis to the side for now, though. Small victories, even if he was simply prolonging the inevitable. His mum had tried to talk about it gently, tried to coax his thoughts out as he’d sat curled up outside under a tree, but dealing with this, with Harry, on its own was hard enough for now.
Especially right now.
Louis tried to move further back, to put some semblance of distance between them, but all it did was let Harry move closer to press him into the solid surface at his back. There were people bustling past them, rolling their eyes and grinning, but the noise was drowned out by the Saturdays blaring in his ear.
“ – and then I thought you looked a bit like her.”
Louis was staring at him, toying absentmindedly with the headphone cord where the other bud snaked up to Harry’s ear, but he hadn’t been listening to him. He’d been lost in the rhythm, the easy way that Harry’s hand had come up to rest flat next to his head in a way that sent licks of fire and pops of need through his body. They were always close, too close probably, but now, with Harry basically pressing against him and grinning, Louis was a heartbeat away from surging forward to kiss his next words from his mouth.
Harry sighed, but it was fond and easy as he shifted to rest his forearm against the wall. “I said you look like Frankie from the Saturdays.”
They were even closer now, and Louis’ hand flew up to grip Harry’s hip, the softness under his palm making him flush as he exhaled shakily. There was a question in Harry’s eyes, one that Louis couldn’t hear, but he knew enough to recognise that the answer he had might be enough.
His hand slid cautiously up to rest on Harry’s waist as the noise around them seemed to fade, everything else seemingly insignificant when he had this boy, this wonderful, kind, perfect boy, in front of him. “Thought you thought she was well fit.”
It startled a laugh out of Harry, and Louis could feel the huff of air against his lips because he’d moved closer again, and Louis was burning from the inside out.
“I do. Much prefer this version, though.”
The words were murmured, low and sure, a contrast to the nervous twitch that Louis could see in Harry’s body, the uncertain shine in his eyes, but Louis still heard them perfectly because Harry had moved closer again, their noses brushing gently in a way that sent shivers down Louis’ spine. His mind was somehow completely empty, every thought being shifted aside to let him focus on the way that Harry was shaking, on the way Louis’ hand was trembling as he fisted Harry’s shirt to drag him closer, the way that if he just pressed forward a few centimetres, Louis would finally get to know what Harry tasted like.
He rubbed his nose softly along Harry’s, swallowed when Harry gasped, and tilted his head to finally – .
“Alright boys, time for a quick interview.”
Louis startled back with an ow, his head smarting where it’d knocked behind him, whipping around to stare incredulously at the cameramen as Harry took a tiny step back, pulling the bud from his ear.
No. Surely not. This wasn’t something that happened in real life; people only got interrupted in the movies or on TV, not when they were just two unknown boys trying to have their first kiss. He went to snap at them, to tell them to fuck off so he would drag Harry back into him, but Harry had already started talking to them.
The whole time that Harry looked at the camera, and for the brief moment he shifted his hand on the wall, Louis couldn’t even fathom taking his eyes off Harry, couldn’t even begin to contemplate moving his gaze for longer than a split second.
I think I’m already in love with you.
So, he didn’t, and he let himself stare and want and need, and fall even further.
Chapter 3: Two
I got a feeling deep inside
“He crawled into bed with me again this morning, Zayn,” Louis whined, kicking his feet out in frustration. “I only have so much self-control.”
Zayn laughed, a delighted sound that made the flat feel even more homely. “Well stop inviting him into your bed, then. You’re not helping yourself.”
Louis rolled over onto his stomach, settling into the couch further to glare at him. “It’s confusing, alright? I thought it’d be okay, living here with him, but,” Louis sighed as he face planted into the couch, “it’s just made my feelings for him even stronger, Zayn.”
Zayn raised his eyebrows in slight disbelief. “What did you expect, babe?”
He didn’t really know what he’d expected. Him and Harry had moved into their own flat together, something entirely too domestic in Princess Park, and Louis had been in hell ever since. It was too perfect in every way, and he was constantly reminded of how much he needed the other boy, how much he wanted everything from him.
It was almost torture every time he woke up to Harry slipping under the covers, creating a safe haven where nobody, not even their new management, could pry their way in to talk about fashion choices and fake girlfriends, hidden sexualities and less affection.
Harry was always so warm huddled under Louis’ duvet, skin soft and touched by sweat when they pressed together under the guise of body heat. Well, for Louis at least. There were always careful fingers through Louis’ fringe or gentle strokes down his back, careless words whispered into his ear that sent tremors down his spine and shot a desperate need for constant attention into Louis’ mind. It didn’t help that Harry knew exactly how to make Louis’ tea, and always delivered it with sleepy eyes and a secret smile every morning with breakfast.
Louis already knew he was in love with him, had probably been since they’d met.
He was too frightened to do anything about it, though. Harry was his best friend, Louis’ person, even after such a short time, and Louis didn’t want to ruin it by baring his soul. Zayn insisted Harry felt it too, that it was obvious in the way he looked at Louis, the way they were together, but Louis had tried, in vain, to read Harry. All he got were hidden looks and fleeting touches, nowhere near enough to go on, not enough to risk their friendship for. Louis didn’t know how he’d handle it if Harry pulled away because of this, this thing that he could hide even if it killed him.
And he felt like he was dying a little bit today, because Harry was out with his first ever PR relationship in a situation so awful that Louis had almost cried the first time Harry had told him about it. He’d held Harry close as he’d shed a tear or two, though, kissing the top of his head and murmuring sweet words of reassurance. It helped him forget his own nightmare, his own piece of ugly Hollywood bullshit that was starting to rear its head for people like him.
It’d been enough to handle when he’d realised he was gay, that Harry wasn’t just a passing fancy that’d be a blip on his radar in a few years. It’d been so obvious once it hit him; why he’d never wanted to join in when his mates talked about girls, why he’d been disappointed he hadn’t felt the same tension or want when he’d almost kissed a girl. His mum had been incredible, and the lads in the band had been just as supportive.
And then it’d all started to fall down once their management found out, about all of them. It was too late to change now, contracts signed too long ago, but they could still all stick together and know the truth for themselves.
Louis had thought having Zayn here while Harry was gone would help, but all it did was make him antsy and anxious. It didn’t help that Zayn was being a wanker about the whole thing, though.
“I don’t know what I expected!” Louis whined, flopping around uselessly on the couch until Zayn whipped a piece of toast at him. “Maybe that overexposure would make me love him less?” Louis brushed crumbs out of his hair, freezing when Zayn choked, and sprayed toast all over him. Well, probably no point trying to clean his hair now. “Mate, what the fuck?”
Zayn coughed harshly, hitting his own chest. “You love him? How long have you bloody known that you love him?”
“Ah, maybe like, from the start?” Louis grinned sheepishly at him, but Zayn’s withering glares were a speciality. “What? I know, I should’ve told you, but we’re well past that now.”
Zayn let out a huff while he fidgeted in his seat. “You have to tell him, Lou. You can’t be in love with him and keep it to yourself! He’s your best mate. He deserves to know.”
That hardly seemed fair. It wasn’t that he didn’t deserve to know, because Louis knew deep down that he probably did, but it wasn’t that simple. He’d just come up with a big speech to shoot back at Zayn when the door flung open, footsteps thundered down the hall, and then Louis was being smothered on the couch in a hug so tight that he thought he couldn’t breathe.
He wrapped his arms around Harry automatically, one hand lifting to run through his curls as Zayn slipped out of the room.
“Haz, love.” He kept his voice soft when his noticed his neck was slightly damp where Harry had buried his face. “Are you okay?”
The grip on his hoodie tightened with an odd crinkling noise, but Louis ignored it in favour of the whispered thank you’s falling from Harry’s lips.
“For what, love?”
There was the odd noise again, louder this time, and Louis went cross eyed when a newspaper was shoved unceremoniously into his face. He pulled back slightly to look at it, confusion clearly showing in his features, but when his eyes hit a specific section, it all made sense.
He’d forgotten he’d even done it, in the mess of the last couple of days. He couldn’t have timed it better if he’d planned it, really.
“I can’t believe you did that for me today.”
It was a whisper, hardly anything, but Louis let it flow through his system to warm where everything had turned him cold.
He kissed the top of Harry’s head, his eyes squeezed shut. “I’d do anything for you, Haz. Anything.”
Harry sniffed, pushing further into Louis, and his next words were the best thing Louis had ever heard.
“I’ve never felt safer than I do with you.”
The paper flew softly to the ground, but Louis paid it no mind, not even glancing at the words staring up at him.
Thank you Styles for making me egg on toast every day.
There were only five minutes left until the countdown, and Louis had already spent the last eight zipping through the flat to avoid having to answer one more question about a girlfriend he didn’t actually have. He hadn’t seen her in at least half an hour, didn’t even know if she was still there actually, but he’d finally managed to sneak past everyone and slip into his bedroom.
Oh thank fuck.
He threw himself down on the bed, starfishing to cover all sides before he realised he’d thrown himself down on top of someone.
Of course it was Harry, love of his life Harry laying in his bed three minutes before the countdown into the new year. Harry smelled good. Louis wriggled further down against him and let out a happy sigh.
“Haz. What are you doin’ in my room?”
There were cautious fingers pushing his fringe back. “Just wanted to be on my own for a bit.”
Louis frowned and tried to move, pouting when the movement he’d made moved Harry’s fingers from where they were tracing his jawline. “‘m sorry, I’ll just - .”
“No!” Harry’s arms flew around him, tight and safe. “No, I didn’t mean you. Please stay.”
Louis hummed, rolling over onto his back and pulling Harry with him. He stared up at him as Harry settled on his elbows over him, and he’d had too much alcohol to be in control of anything. He could hear a countdown starting, only ten seconds now, but it wasn’t important. The only thing that was, was Harry, wide eyes and flushed cheeks and twitching hands settling in his hair.
“Happy New Year, Haz,” Louis murmured, threading his fingers through thick curls before he’d even realised.
A sharp breath. A closer press of bodies. A careful whisper.
“Happy New Year, Lou.”
And then there was a soft pressure against his lips, slightly wet and warm, and Louis completely shut down.
Harry was kissing him, actually kissing him, but Louis was too stunned, and slightly too drunk, to react. While he willed his body to respond, he let himself savour the moment in every way possible, the beginning of their forever, chapped lips and a slow tongue, the sound of cheers and screaming from the party they were avoiding to just be with each other.
He’d just tightened his fingers in Harry’s hair, opened his mouth on a whine to lick into Harry’s mouth, but then he was cold because Harry had pulled back and shifted to curl against his chest.
In the morning, was his last thought as he drifted off, alcohol catching up with him as electricity pulsed through him. I’ll tell him everything in the morning.
But then he woke up alone with a cold bed and a headache, disoriented and confused. He wrapped himself in his duvet and stumbled to the kitchen, ignoring the mess on the walls and ceiling, almost tripping over a body on the floor that he blearily realised was someone he didn’t recognise. He could smell something cooking that made his stomach rumble, but he couldn’t figure out if it was because he wanted the food, or wanted to be as far away from it as possible.
It seemed irrelevant when he shuffled into the kitchen to find Harry at the stove, alone, cooking breakfast for what sounded like an army in the lounge room.
“Haz?” Something awful settled in his stomach when Harry’s back visibly stiffened, and it suddenly had nothing to do with the alcohol. “Can we talk?”
God please, let us talk, please let me fix whatever the fuck’s gone wrong.
Harry spun around, bottom lip sucked between his teeth, and Louis’ heart jolted.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it, please don’t hate me.” Harry’s voice was pleading, and Louis realised what was happening just as bile rose in his throat.
He was being let down, gently, in the sweetest way possible because Harry was scared of hurting him. It was fine, everything was fine, Louis could do this. It’d be better for Harry if he thought Louis was on the same page.
Louis took a deep breath, and bit the bullet.
“It’s fine, Haz. We’re still best mates, yeah?” Everything was screaming at him to stop, but he pushed through. “We were just drunk. What’s a kiss between friends?”
Harry’s face crumpled for a split second, just enough for Louis to see, but it was gone just as quickly, and the kitchen was awkward once again.
“Best mates,” Harry echoed back, his face unreadable now. “I - okay, so we’re - we’re okay?”
Louis felt sick. “Yeah, yeah. We’re perfect.”
“Good, because,” Harry moved closer, abandoning breakfast to tentatively wrap his arms around Louis’ waist, “nobody knows me like you, Lou. Nobody.”
And nobody loves you like I do, either. Nobody.
“‘m still here, love. Always.” Louis wrapped his arms around Harry’s neck, clinging to him in a way that somehow felt like they were both grieving something.
And then Niall came in and shattered the fragile cocoon they’d built, and for once, Louis was glad for the interruption.
There was silence as Louis left the kitchen to sit at the dining table, duvet forgotten in the kitchen, head in his hands to stop the pain ricocheting through his body.
He should’ve known it was too good to be true, that Harry would never want him the same way Louis wanted him, that last night hadn’t been the start of forever, but rather the end of all possibilities.
For the first time ever, when Harry tentatively put eggs and toast in front of him, he felt hollow.
Chapter 4: Three
'Cause nobody knows you, baby, the way I do
And nobody loves you, baby, the way I do
The rocking of the bus was always soothing in its own weird way, a reminder to Louis of how lucky he was to be doing what he loved. He had no idea where they were to be honest, changing cities too often to really wrap his head around anything. All he knew was that he was too hyped up from the show to sleep, adrenaline still surging through his veins, and while Liam and Zayn had managed to fall asleep almost instantly, tangled up in each other, Louis was left to ponder everything that’d happened.
Harry had purposefully sung ‘I’m in love with Lou, and all his little things’.
In front of everyone.
And looked directly at him with that infuriating grin.
He’d already watched the videos posted online that showed how stunned he was, Zayn’s light tap not even enough to sway his focus from the man across the stage.
There’d been thousands of tweets and Tumblr posts, all hashtagged Larry in a way that somehow systematically destroyed and rebuilt him all at once. It was painful sometimes, to see the way their fans so solidly believed in them when he couldn’t dare to believe in them himself; it was a sure fire way to ensure his heart and soul would never recover.
He knew what it looked like, and some things were spot on; he could remember the conversation with Modest! as clear as day when they’d told them, in no uncertain terms, that him and Harry weren’t to interact in public anymore. They’d fought as hard as they could, saying they were just friends even as the words spiked into Louis’ heart, but they’d never stood a chance against a plan that’d already been set in motion before they’d even known it had existed. It didn’t matter, Modest! had claimed, because everyone thinks you’re dating. Even now, away from prying fans and hired cameras, they were travelling on separate buses when all Louis wanted was to curl up on Harry’s chest and sleep. Harry’s heartbeat against his ear was the only way he could sleep sometimes, and the selfie Harry had sent him earlier had done nothing but make his chest ache.
There was no way he could sleep like this, though; confused and lonely, drowning in an unrequited love that he was sure was a few days away from swallowing him whole.
He had what felt like a hundred questions to send him, but every time he seriously considered it, his hands were shaking too much to type. Did you mean it? Do you love me the way I love you? Do you know how much it kills me when you talk about other lads? Do you think, maybe, we could win this time?
He shifted in his bunk, sighing heavily against the stillness of the bus, the sound still covered by the wheels on the road. It was almost pitch black, no lights coming in from outside to disrupt him, but it was pointless.
He wasn’t surprised when the curtain on his bunk was pulled back, and a bleary eyed Zayn crawled in next to him. Louis let him slot in behind him, a snug fit as Zayn’s arm slung over his waist, and then Liam was settling into the bunk directly opposite him, eyes tired but alert enough to know he was listening.
“Tommo, c’mon.” Liam’s soft expression matched his tone, and Louis already felt a bit more at ease. “You’ve gotta sleep, mate.”
He burrowed back against Zayn’s chest. “Can’t. Not without him, not right now.” He could tell without looking that they’d just exchanged some kind of look over his head. He didn’t even care at this point.
Zayn’s voice was right near his ear. “What are you thinkin’ about, babe?” His arm tightened around Louis, safe and protective.
“He said he was in love with me, Zaynie. ‘m I supposed to ignore it?”
There was a heavy silence in the bus now, somehow still filled with words that the other men didn’t want to say. Louis knew it was to protect his feelings, whatever it was, but he was long past that. He aimed an awkward kick backwards until Zayn yelped.
“Alright, alright, you dickhead.” Zayn sighed heavily, and Liam’s expression already looked apologetic. Louis braced himself as Zayn spoke again. “He changed the lyrics to one of our songs, Lou. It just happened to fit with your name, ‘m sorry babe. He does love you; you know he does, you’re best mates, but I don’t think it was what you want it to be.”
Even though it was what he’d been expecting, it still stung, and even though Louis should’ve been familiar with the feeling after all this time, it just felt like a new wound over an old scar, a reminder of why he’d locked his heart down to anyone. He should’ve realised though that all it’d do was make sure Harry stayed there, warm and protected, until Louis was ready to let him go.
“I don’t understand.” Louis shoved his face into his pillow, ignoring Liam’s soft noise of concern. “You’re the ones that keep telling me that he feels the same way, that maybe I shouldn’t give up, but now this?”
There was a gentle flick to his ear. “No, what we keep saying is that you should fucking tell him, not that you should just wallow in self-pity until he figures it out on his own.”
Louis’ phone vibrated, but he ignored it in favour of struggling against Zayn’s hold. “It’s too - .”
“ – big of a risk Tommo, yeah, we know,” Liam finished for him, eyebrows raised. “But don’t you think it’s worth it? It’s been years, mate. It’s just gonna get worse.”
“You don’t know that.”
Louis was sulking, knew that he was, but he was tired of the same conversation, regardless of whether he thought they were right or not. Harry was different now, taller and leaner and more confident, but still just as kind and brilliant and breathtaking, and Louis couldn’t imagine ever loving anyone else, ever wanting someone else the way he wanted Harry.
It was like Zayn could read his mind.
“Maybe you need to get laid, get rid of some of the tension in your fucking body.” He grunted when Louis swung his elbow back to deliver a solid blow to his chest.
Louis looked up, locking eyes with Liam. “You know I can’t do that, that I won’t, not unless it’s someone I care about.” He shifted his gaze to the floor and followed the gentle sway of Liam’s shoelace. “That’s Harry, always has been.”
“We know, Tommo, it’s just that,” Liam sighed, running his hand over his face, “we just want you to be happy, mate.”
“That’s why I have you guys,” Louis shot back, a soft smile on his face that Liam returned lazily. He was starting to feel tired now, his body content with the one pressed against his back even though it knew the difference. He tried to stifle a yawn, but Zayn caught it anyway. “Maybe I’m not even gay.”
The snorts of both men filled the small space.
“I’ve never even kissed a lad, how am I even supposed to know?”
Louis could tell that Zayn rolled his eyes, even though he couldn’t see him. “You don’t have to suck a dick to know that you’re gay, Lou. Besides, you have kissed a guy. You’ve literally kissed Harry.”
“Yeah well, that was years ago now. Maybe it’s just a Harry thing,” Louis mused, but he knew his argument was fading fast when even Liam, sweet little Liam, rolled his eyes. “Alright, alright, we can’t all find the love of our lives in the same fucking boyband, can we, lads?”
Liam’s face instantly turned soft and loving, his gaze trained on Zayn where he was still spooned up against Louis, and Louis was happy for them, honestly, he was, but the fact they made it work so perfectly despite everything sometimes reminded him that it was possible.
If only he had Harry, too.
His eyes were growing heavier, his limbs settling into the mattress underneath him before he realised he’d never checked his phone. He could hear Liam and Zayn talking softly over him as he thumbed open a message from Harry, and his heart stuttered in his chest.
We’ll have to nap together tomorrow morning. Can’t sleep without you. Night, baby.
Baby. That was new, and welcome, and wanted, and even though Louis was a second away from falling asleep, his mind itched with something that he wasn’t sure of yet.
He yawned, his jaw cracking in a way that made Zayn flinch behind him. “Can we write tomorrow? ‘ve got somethin’.”
“Course. Go to sleep, yeah?”
With Harry filling his mind, Louis finally let himself drift off.
The second that he stepped into the hotel the next day, he was picked up and thrown over Harry’s shoulder. He shrieked, flailing in the strong hold even as he laughed, kicking his feet and ignoring the amused faces of everyone around him.
“Harold. Put me down.”
Harry remained strong though, hefting him higher to carry him towards the lift. “I’ve been waiting for you for ages,” he whined, slipping inside and pressing a button Louis couldn’t see. “’m so tired.”
“We only have an hour or so!”
“Perfect time for a nap,” came the cheery response, and then Louis was being carried through a door and dumped onto a double bed.
It was incredible really, the way his body seemed to react to having Harry there. He was already tired, the cells in his body all relaxing at the knowledge that Harry was here this time. It was Harry pulling him to sprawl over his chest, Harry’s fingers running through his hair, and Harry kissing the top of his head.
Still new, still wanted. Louis nudged Harry’s chest with his nose. “Baby?”
“Yeah, because you’re tiny and adorable, so,” Harry’s voice was happy and light, and it soothed Louis down into his toes, “baby. Is – is that okay?”
He hummed and snuggled closer, pressing into Harry’s warmth so he could feel it everywhere. “‘m not tiny, you’re tiny,” he grumbled, smiling against Harry when he heard him giggle. “Nah, ‘s perfect. I’m just confused.”
Harry’s body lifted slightly as he shrugged, and he apologised softly when Louis grumbled at the movement. “Just felt like it. I have a good feeling about this year, Lou. Think we’re gonna win this time.”
When Louis woke later, nose pressed into Harry’s neck, he wrangled Liam straight away, writing down everything he could remember from when he’d been drifting off. It was a love song, he supposed, but not just that.
It was for their past, everything they’d already overcome together and everything they were doing now, everything that was coming for them, and where Louis wanted them to be. It was a single word written at the top of the page.
It was just a shame that Louis had no idea, really, what was coming. He didn’t know yet that they’d cling to this song, this feeling, this love to get through.
So, for now, he simply sat down with Liam, and wrote his very first song for One Direction about Harry.
Chapter 5: Four
It's taking, it's taking all I've got, yeah
It's taking, it's taking all I've got
“This has the potential to be a huge disaster.”
Louis groaned, throwing more socks into his suitcase. “Liam, for the last fucking time, it’s gonna be perfect. Niall’s already in Australia, Zayn’s gonna go, then you’re going instead of Harry so you can spend more time with your darling boyfriend, you’re welcome, and Harry and I are gonna go together, okay?”
It certainly wasn’t their most well thought out plan, and they didn’t really even have a solid reason for doing it. It’d taken a lot of sneaking around, too many secrets and hushed promises to switch flights without their management knowing, but Louis was fucking sick of having to pretend like he didn’t want to spend every moment possible with his best friend.
Or soulmate. Semantics.
It was bound to cause problems, maybe too many to count. Their shippers would lose their minds, media outlets would pick up on it, and there were always going to be repercussions from their team, but after Zayn’s meeting yesterday that’d left him inconsolable, Louis had decided fuck this, fuck it, and fuck them. If they wanted to try and tear them apart, Louis was just going to use the opportunity to show that they were all closer than ever.
Starting with him and Harry.
He had purely selfish reasons, too. He hated flying, hated being stuck on a plane without the comfort of Harry, without the feeling of safety and love and home that came with him. He always spent the trip thumbing over the word inked into his skin until he was sure the compass would rub off.
“I’m very grateful for the extra day with Zayn, especially considering what happened yesterday, but I just,” Liam sighed, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Louis stopped for a moment, apologetic eyes and a heavy heart. “I’m so sorry we couldn’t manage for you to go with Zaynie, Payno. I know he needs you, more than ever.”
Liam didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to. The pain was clear on his face, preparing himself for everything that was going to come crashing down on them in less than a month, and Louis knew that everything coming up would be a struggle for them all.
He finished packing in silence, letting Liam sit with his own thoughts, and when Liam left to board his flight the next day, Louis felt him trembling, and almost didn’t let him go.
Bedlam. Pure and utter bedlam, although they’d been expecting it. It was somehow satisfying to see the look of glee on the pap’s faces for once, only because Louis knew it meant the photos would be everywhere, and Simon would have no choice but to see it.
He could feel his phone vibrating in the pocket of his hoodie almost constantly, but he ignored it as he pushed through to get to the gate. It wasn’t until he was actually on the plane, in the air, sprawled across Harry’s lap with a wide grin on his face, that he pulled his phone out and saw the almost hundreds of notifications from their team. He promptly turned it off, threw it into the seat pocket, and spun around with his head in Harry’s lap.
“Hi,” he grinned, heart warming at the fond look on Harry’s face.
“Hi yourself.” It was that low, murmuring drawl that made Louis shiver, and he had to cover it by pulling a blanket over himself.
Harry made a soft noise of protest and reclined his seat, jolting Louis as he gasped. He was suddenly dragged exactly where he always wanted to be, though; pressed up against Harry with his head on his chest, and he almost purred when Harry ran gentle fingers up his hoodie to skim along his back.
Louis was shaking his head before he even finished. “No. Not anymore.”
“Good. Love you, Lou. Thank you for this.”
Love you, Lou, like it was the easiest thing in the world, like it didn’t make Louis want to scream because he was desperate to hear it every single day. He wanted to hear it when Harry left for the day with a kiss on the lips, or when they went to bed together, or gasped when Harry was inside him, hot and hard and perfect. He wanted it every day, in every variation for the rest of his life.
This had to be enough for now.
It was a familiar mantra.
“I love you too, Haz.”
It was the first time he’d properly slept on a flight for over three years.
By the time he woke up, they were more than half way through their trip, and he could see the concentration on Harry’s face from trying not to shift him as he tapped out on his phone. It was hazed in confusion though, and a slight tinge of frustration.
Louis rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he watched Harry’s face shift into something soft and careful.
“Everything okay? Looks like you’re concentrating awfully hard.”
Harry stiffened slightly, not enough that anyone else would notice, but Louis knew Harry better than himself at this point, and it was basically as obvious as if he’d screamed into the empty cabin.
“Yeah, ‘m alright, just,” Harry exhaled shakily, seemingly warring with himself before he pushed on, “Nick set me up with a guy back home and he’s messaged me. Just don’t wanna deal with it at the moment.”
It was conflicting for Louis in that moment, a deep spike of jealousy mingled with a soft sense of relief that Harry obviously didn’t like the man particularly much.
“Not your type?”
Harry snorted. “Not at all. I’m fairly picky, though. You know that.”
Unfortunately for Louis, he did know, had spent time listening to Harry tell the other lads, embarrassment colouring his cheeks, about a couple of men he’d slept with. He never spoke about it directly with just Louis, not in any detail, just enough that Louis could brush it aside with a fake grin that didn’t reach his eyes.
Louis settled further into Harry’s side, reaching a hand up to run gentle fingers through his hair, untangling any knots he came across. It was long now, falling in gorgeous waves around his face, and Louis was helpless to it all. Harry hummed and pushed into the touch.
“Have you seen him at all?” Louis asked, hesitance clear in his voice, but his heartbeat calmed at the soothing hand Harry ran down his back.
“Yeah, just once. He tried to kiss me, but I turned him down and he didn’t take it very well. Said he thought I was supposed to be easy. Was a bit of a wanker, in the end.”
Well. Louis was definitely awake now, white hot fury replacing his sleepy feeling of content. People always just assumed they could touch Harry, that they could take whatever they wanted from him, and it always made him slightly sick to his stomach.
He sat up abruptly, dislodging Harry’s hands from his body. “Did he touch you? Did he try anything else, because I swear to fucking God - .”
“Hey, hey, Louis, c’mon.” Large hands suddenly cupped his face, stroking over his cheeks, and Harry’s eyes were wide as they locked onto Louis’. “He didn’t touch me, he didn’t try anything else, okay? I promise, he was just an arsehole.”
The words were calming, but Louis couldn’t really focus on anything other than Harry right in front of him. Louis reached out, clutching onto Harry anywhere he could, murmuring an apology when he heard a small rip.
“Sorry, I’m sorry, I just,” Louis sighed, running a hand up Harry’s arm to cup his neck because suddenly no amount of touch was enough, “I hate that people believe everything about you in the papers, and I hate that those fucking arseholes are still winning, and I just want you to be happy, darling. That’s all I want.”
Harry ducked forward to press his lips to Louis’ cheek, warm and loving, and Louis felt all the tension leave his body. “Always so protective, Lou.” He was teasing, but the words still rang true.
They sat in a comfortable silence for a while, the only sound the hum of the aeroplane engine, completely wrapped up in each other, and Louis had no idea what even compelled him to talk.
“You’re the only person I’ve ever kissed, you know.”
Harry didn’t even flinch, although his voice was incredulous. “Really? Me? But, that was years ago Lou, and we’ve - we’ve never even really spoken about it.”
“I know.” Louis fiddled with Harry’s necklaces, sliding the metal smoothly between his fingers. “I’ve never wanted to kiss anyone since.” (Or anyone else, ever, no one other than you).
“Ever. I think there’s a word for it, when you’re not attracted to anyone that you don’t have a strong emotional connection with.”
This time, Harry’s hand did falter in its careful path down Louis’ spine. “I - I think it’s demisexual?”
Louis made an affirmative noise in his throat. “Sounds about right.”
“And - and you had feelings for me? Back then?”
Their conversation felt like it was teetering on the edge of a cliff, one firm word away from free falling into the dark below. There was no way to know which direction it would go, but he felt safe here wrapped up in Harry, so he answered honestly, ignoring the voices in his head that whispered at him to stop.
“Of course I did,” Louis laughed, but it was self deprecating and his eyes were slightly wet as he blinked.
Still do, always will, you, forever, only you.
He wasn’t quite ready for this conversation yet, even though it could’ve been the perfect time, just the two of them for hours. That’s also why it wasn’t the right time, though. If it all went wrong, Louis had nowhere to run.
A fact he was suddenly furious about when a gentle grip tilted his chin, and he was only centimetres away from Harry’s face. Louis swallowed heavily, hands clenching in Harry’s shirt when his gaze flicked down to Louis’ lips.
“Lou, I want - can I, please?”
But Louis didn’t want a pity kiss, a kiss from Harry because he felt bad that Louis hadn’t been with anyone before, hadn’t kissed anyone but him. He disentangled himself slowly, and curled back up against Harry’s chest.
He heard Harry’s hand hit the seat with a loud thud.
“Night, Haz. I need some more sleep.”
There was no answer, just heavy breathing and what sounded like a stifled sob, but by the time he’d heard it, he’d already started to drift off.
“You hurt me so much back then, Lou. So much.”
Louis was sure he’d imagined it.
He’d known it would be bad.
He still hadn’t been prepared.
It’d been tame at the time, a slap on the wrist and the forced promise from all of them to never do it again. They’d all known it was just the beginning though, but they’d had no idea when it’d happen, or who’d be first.
Zayn was already gone, forced out into a situation that was worse because his boys weren’t there to protect him, something Louis tried not to think about too often because every time, it just felt like a new hole being ripped in his chest. They still spoke to him every day, and he’d joined Liam as often as possible on tour, but Louis felt snowed under, clinging to anything that would keep him above it all.
Louis should’ve known Harry would be next.
He pushed the office door open viciously, ignoring the secretary’s protests, too wrapped up in his anger to feel pleased when it crashed into the wall from the force.
“Louis! A pleasant surprise, I suppose.”
He slammed his palm down on the table, the sound intense and threatening, but all it caused was Simon’s eyebrows to raise. “I know you’re planning something for him, tell me what it fucking is.”
There was silence for just a beat too long.
“How could you possibly think I’m planning something for Harry?”
Louis could hardly hear him over the roaring of his own heart in his ears, the fear pounding in his brain, and the anger firing through his blood.
“I heard those cunts in the tea room when they didn’t know I was there,” he hissed, “and I know you have something. Besides, I didn’t even mention Harry.”
Simon barked out a laugh, a dry awful thing. “You didn’t have to, Louis. It’s always Harry with you, isn’t it?”
The sign of danger was clear, the smug look of satisfaction that should’ve made it obvious he’d walked into a trap, the way that, looking back, it didn’t make sense that the contracts had been in his name.
Louis didn’t even hesitate to sign them.
“He’s always been your weakness, Louis, the one thing that makes you so incredibly easy to manipulate.” Simon’s actions were the polar opposite of his words, nonchalant and seemingly nothing as he stacked papers together neatly at the corner of his desk. “Maybe you should work on that.”
“I’d do it for any of them.”
Simon still looked like he’d won, and deep down, Louis knew he had. “Not quite like this though. How sad, Louis. Not only being,” Simon looked him up and down with a sneer, but Louis had already heard it all, “the way you are, but the man you love doesn’t love you back? How...awful for you.”
Louis knew he should be furious, should be throwing everything around Simon’s office until it was broken and shattered, just like he felt, but he was starting to build up some kind of resistance to Simon’s cruelty, his emptiness. It helped that his speeches always sounded vaguely like a bad villain at the end of an action movie.
Simon spoke again. “You love too much Louis, and it’ll be your downfall.”
Louis straightened, brushing his hands down his sweater. They trembled. “It’s a shame you’ll never get to experience what that’s like, to love someone with everything you have.” He glanced up, eyes blazing and expression calm. “I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
It only took Louis five seconds after he left the room to realise he’d been the target all along.
The stage was still his favourite place to be. He still wasn’t quite used to the screaming and crying that followed them wherever they went, but right now, the crowd was losing their minds, and it took one quick glance behind him to see why.
Oh Haz. Beautiful, brave, wonderful Haz.
Because there he was, with a fucking pride flag, looking the most determined Louis had seen him in years. He couldn’t contain the wide smile that spread across his face, absolutely didn’t want to, and now what Harry had said before the show made perfect sense.
“You’ll see, Lou. They can’t stop me when I’m out there. I’m gonna do something, just wait.”
He’d always been dying to grab one, desperate to show his support and link to the community in one of the only ways he was technically allowed. He’d whispered it to Louis one night last month while they were travelling between cities, Niall snoring in his bunk and Liam whispering on the phone with Zayn.
Louis had made sure they had their own safe space away from everything, curtains drawn in his too small bunk, pressed too tightly to Harry for it to be purely platonic but still too nervous to say anything. Five years now, and nothing had changed, still irrevocably in love with his best friend in the most cliché of romantic tropes.
“One day, darling,” Louis had whispered back, hiding the flush of his cheeks in Harry’s shoulder and the tremble of his fingers in his hair, “one day, you won’t need to hide.”
“We won’t,” had come the stern reply, and Louis’ battered heart still tried to jump at any kind of connection. “None of us will.”
For now, he watched, heart in his throat and his body thrumming with love as Harry waved a rainbow flag. Fuck, this was actually happening. The crowd was still going crazy, regardless of the fact that Harry had thrown it into the throng now, and it took everything Louis had not to throw himself at him on the stage, rules be damned.
No one could’ve stopped him later though, when they were in their dressing room, his legs wrapped around Harry’s waist, Harry’s arm under his bum to hold him up as they clung to each other in a hug so fierce that Louis felt like nothing could break them.
“‘m so proud of you, Harry,” Louis choked out, the sound muffled in Harry’s neck as he tightened his legs. “I am so proud of you.”
I’ve never been so in love with you.
They sank slowly to the floor, ignored the knocks on their dressing room door as Louis settled in Harry’s lap, and Louis let himself surrender to the moment, and pretend it was real.
Chapter 6: Five
I think I'm gonna lose my mind
Something deep inside me, I can't give up
The house was quiet at first, a soft light coming in through the open curtains as the day turned to night in a wash of orange and purple. The sound of his keys hitting the metal of the bowl by the door was loud, but his heavy sigh was louder. He was sick of coming home to an empty house, and combined with not having seen any of the boys in weeks, he was feeling exceptionally lonely.
Luckily, the sound of soft clicks on the floor registered just in time for him to grin before he was almost tackled to the ground in a ball of fur.
“Cliff! Cliff, stop it, gah,” Louis laughed, scratching Clifford’s belly and back as he whined. “I missed you too, yes I did, I missed you too.”
He’d only been gone for a couple of days visiting his family, Oli feeding and looking after Cliff while he was away. He was a dramatic bastard though, and Louis was waiting for the moment Cliff got over his initial joy and barked for dinner.
But he didn’t.
Louis’ brain slowly caught up. The open curtains, the fact that Cliff was inside and Oli wasn’t here, an extra set of keys on the hall table that looked so incredibly familiar that he gasped.
“Haz?” He called, stumbling to his feet and wandering further into the house. “Haz, are you here?”
He didn’t have to search very far, because stretched out along his couch, a smirk on his face and a USB dangling from his fingers, was Harry.
Fuck he’d missed him.
He’d been MIA for weeks finishing off his album, refusing to send Louis any sound bites until he thought it was perfect. It was due out in only a couple of weeks now, and while Louis was incredibly happy and proud of him, anxiously waiting to listen to his music, he could only focus on the fact that Harry was here, in his house.
He’d already started jogging across the room by the time that Harry stood, meeting him in the middle and throwing his arms around Harry’s neck. He buried his face in his hair, tightening his grip as Harry wrapped his arms around his waist, and breathed him in.
“Harry, Haz, darling,” Louis breathed out, rocking up onto his toes to get as close as possible.
Harry’s hand slid up under his sweater and splayed across the small of his back, comforting and warm and so much like home that Louis had to blink back tears that didn’t even make sense.
“Louis, baby.” Harry pressed his lips firmly to his temple. “I missed you so much.”
The teasing pet name still twisted through his stomach, caused his heart to pound, but the content feeling that followed made it worth it. He was used to it, anyway.
A deep sigh, but filled with joy this time. “I missed you too, love.” He refused to let go even as they continued their conversation, even as they rocked back and forth in the middle of the room. “Is the album done?”
“All finished. Want you to listen to it,” Harry murmured in his ear as Cliff circled them, tail wagging until Harry bent down slightly to scratch behind his ear.
They shifted awkwardly to the couch, refusing to untangle in a mess of limbs and giggles. Harry dropped Louis carefully onto the cushions, plugged the USB into his sound system, and settled on his side so they were facing each other.
It felt like it’d been months since they’d been this close, and Louis was reminded that there was never going to be a day that he didn’t somehow fall more in love with Harry Styles. It was the tiniest things; the way his mouth twitched when he brushed Louis’ fringe back, or when he made sure to carefully slide his arm under Louis’ body when he tugged him into his chest.
Louis was just about to slide his fingers into Harry’s curls when the first track kicked in, and he suddenly lost all capacity to speak. He closed his eyes, and just let himself listen.
He didn’t move the entire time, couldn’t bring himself to be distracted from the breath taking melodies and heart wrenching lyrics, the gorgeous crescendos and addictive guitar. It was somehow everything he’d expected from Harry, and nothing like he’d thought.
By the time the last song had faded out, he was completely in love with every last song, everything that Harry had written and created, and he finally moved to hover over him.
To an outsider, Harry would’ve looked cool and calm, his face clear, but to Louis, it was obvious that he was terrified. His lip was trembling, he was avoiding Louis’ gaze, and Louis could feel Harry’s fingers twitching against his back.
“Harry.” Louis cupped his face and pressed a quick kiss to his nose. “It’s absolutely perfect, Haz. It’s so brilliant, I’m so, so, proud of you.” He felt the relieved breath that Harry pushed out harshly.
“Lou.” Harry nudged into his touch, and Louis has never loved him more. “Thank you,” he whispered. “It’s for you, all of it. Couldn’t have done it without you.”
Louis was too full of affection and awe, too full of love to restrain himself, and before he could second guess himself, he dropped down, and connected their lips.
He almost sobbed at the feeling, almost groaned from Harry’s nails suddenly digging into his back, but this moment wasn’t about him. He kept it incredibly chaste, let himself have this one moment as a complete show of affection to Harry for the beautiful music he’d created, and when he pulled back, everything in his body cried out in protest. He nudged their noses together to soften the noise.
Harry exhaled on a shaky breath, and Louis could feel him trembling. “I - what was that for?”
“‘m just so proud, darling. Best nine songs I’ve ever heard.”
The answer was soft, and there was something hidden in it, but Louis was too overwhelmed to decipher it.
Laughter filled every corner of his lounge room, although most of it was Niall’s as he cackled at something Liam had said. Louis let himself watch for a minute as Niall, Liam, and Zayn whipped what looked like peanuts at each other, only interfering when one hit his TV.
“Oi, cut that out!”
Zayn grinned around a handful as he shoved them in his mouth. “It’s just a nut, Lou. It’s not gonna break anything. Why are you so nervous anyway? You’ve already heard it.”
Louis threw a chip at him as Liam shouted, cowering behind his boyfriend as Niall whipped another nut at him from where he sat at Louis’ computer. “Yeah but this is different. It’s out to the whole world now.”
“Hey, Tommo? I thought you said there were nine songs. There’s 10 here.” Niall frowned at the screen, ignoring Louis as he wandered over.
“There is, I listened to them,” he insisted, but as his eyes ran down the track list, he realised he didn’t know any of the names. Rookie mistake.
Niall was right, though. There were 10 songs listed.
Liam rested his chin on Louis’ shoulder, but he didn’t even notice. “Well, I guess you’ll have to listen to them all again to find out which one the extra one is.”
There was an almost tense silence as Niall played Meet Me in the Hallway, but as the song started and the boys closed their eyes to listen, the only tension in the room came from Louis.
It didn’t make any sense. Why would Harry have kept a song from him, hidden something from him that he was obviously incredibly proud of? Louis tried to focus on the music, but when the fifth song started, a soft acoustic track, Louis almost fell over in his attempt to see the screen.
“This one, it’s this one!”
Niall craned his neck to look, and his eyebrow raise did nothing to quell Louis’ anxiety. “It’s called Sweet Creature.” He swung around to look at Louis, eyes wide. “Lou…”
“Niall, shut up and let him listen,” Zayn hissed, and Louis didn’t even have the capacity to shoot him a thankful glance as the lyrics started.
He - oh.
Surely not, though.
When the song ended, Niall reached over slowly to pause the playlist.
He raised his eyes to stare at Liam, and the soft, open look on his face did nothing to help him understand.
“I - Liam?”
Suddenly Zayn was handing him his phone, tugging him up gently, and pushing him out into the hall. “Go and call Harry, Louis. Please.”
And then Zayn stepped back into the lounge, closed the sliding door, and Louis was alone, not even any thoughts to keep him company.
He didn’t - nothing made sense. Why did Harry keep the song from him when it was so clearly a love song? Was it to protect his feelings?
That only left one other option though, and he felt like he was about to have a panic attack even thinking about it.
He unlocked his phone, took a deep breath, and called Harry.
It went straight to voicemail.
Of course it did. He’d just released an album, of course his phone would be blowing up.
He tried again.
He sent him a text instead.
Haz. I loved it just as much the second time, maybe even more. Sweet Creature is beautiful - why didn’t you show it to me the first time? What’s it about? So proud of you, love xxx
He didn’t get a reply for a couple of hours, and he stared down at the text in confusion until Zayn came over to take the phone from his hand.
“For fucks sake, you two are fucking useless,” Zayn groaned, but he pressed a kiss to Louis’ head before he wandered off to settle over Liam’s lap.
Louis read it once more, confusion still colouring his every thought, and then pocketed his phone.
Lou. Thank you, you have no idea how much that means to me. Sweet Creature felt so personal, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to share it with you at that point. I think, if you really listen to the lyrics, you can figure out what it’s about xxx
Louis was currently hiding up high in a VIP booth on his own to watch Harry perform, lights off in Amsterdam. He was brilliant, which Louis had already known, and his performance was beyond anything Louis could’ve imagined.
It wasn’t until he got a text from Niall that he realised he’d been spotted.
You’re all over Twitter, mate. They know it’s you up there. Just a heads up. They’re all gonna lose their minds at Sweet Creature xo
He groaned, realising that turning the lights off had just ensured that he’d been perfectly silhouetted against the lit hallway. All the problems flew out of his head though as soon as Harry looked up at him from the stage, soft grin on his face that made Louis’ heart flutter.
Alone, being serenaded by his best friend, Louis let a single tear slip down his cheek as he pretended that maybe, just maybe, Sweet Creature could be for him.
It's been so long, it's been so long, maybe we're fireproof
'Cause nobody saves me, baby, the way you do
Louis was grinning at the ground of the stage as he swallowed the laughter bubbling up in his throat.
He felt invincible up here, like nothing and nobody could stop him, and he let that golden feeling flow through his system until all of his nerves were gone, and there was no turning back. He clung onto the mic stand to spin around, shooting glances at his band with a nod as they smiled at him. He turned back around, took a deep breath, grabbed the mic from the stand, and stepped forward.
There was nothing they could do to stop him now.
He kept moving forward until he was standing directly in front of a section of the crowd where he’d seen it, and he didn’t have to wait long until it was back.
The rainbow flag.
He stepped forward, leant down, and outstretched his hand, gesturing towards himself and pointing at the flag.
The section went wild, but he didn’t waver, smiling at the girl with the flag until recognition lit up her eyes, and she scrambled to ball it up, and throw it forward.
He felt oddly calm as he squatted down to wait, watching as the crowd worked together to pass the flag to the front, and then it was thrown with perfect precision to land at his feet.
Okay. You can do this. You’ve been waiting for this for years.
He was shaking, even though he felt ready, his knees heavy and hands twitching as he fingered the silky material as he stood.
The crowd was screaming now, but it was nothing compared to the deafening roar that took over when he straightened it out, and flung it over his shoulders like a cape.
He wasn’t sure if he’d feel any different just from the one simple action, but he instantly felt lighter, freer, because no one could take this from him now. No matter what happened after this, he had this moment, this one being live streamed to thousands of people around the world, the one being filmed by Charlie to keep for the rest of time.
They’d stopped him in the past, thrown every road block and hazard that they could at him, but they couldn’t take this from him; a sea of people chanting his name, thundering, screaming, a number of them crying with what he hoped what joy as he felt a tear slip down his cheek. He wiped it away with a laugh.
It was the first step in a long road ahead.
He couldn’t wait anymore for the crowd to die down, so he lifted up the mic and spoke anyway.
“Thank you, thank you so much. You’re all incredible, so fuckin’ supportive.” Louis laughed again, clutching the flag around him with his free hand. “I’m so incredibly grateful. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I’m finally allowed to say that I’m proud to be who I am, proud to be the person I am, and just proud.” He waved the flag above his head as the noise somehow grew. “I’m so proud to be part of this incredible community, even though I’ve had to hide it all these years. Nothing changed who I am inside, or the way I feel about the man I love, or any of it! I’m here, I’m proud, and I’m gay, and there’s nothing anybody can do to take that from me.”
He was crying properly now, talking through his tears while his band started playing softly in the background.
“Alright alright, here’s another new one for you. This is Habit.”
He clutched the flag to the stand, and didn’t let go.
There were no words for how he was feeling, pure adrenaline still pumping through his veins as he jogged backstage, high fiving random crew as he moved to find his family.
It’d gone perfectly, better than he could’ve dreamed of. His voice had been strong and sure, the band incredible and the most amazing support, the crowd enthusiastic and passionate for him. He absolutely smashed every song, hadn’t even wavered on his new tracks, managed to contain his grin through the line about Princess Park, and the entire experience made him hungry for more.
Soon, he knew. Soon, he’d be touring the world, singing all the songs from his album, his own album.
He didn’t know if he was ready to think about what else he’d done, beyond the intense feeling of freedom and incredulity.
Fuck, he needed a cigarette.
He made a harsh left, breaking away quickly through a barrier to hide behind a white tent, patting down his pockets. He’d just realised that he’d left them in his dressing room when a hand appeared in front of his face, cigarette held delicately between tattooed fingers.
Louis grinned. “Zaynie. Fancy seeing you here, at this event that you would have no reason to be at, obviously.” He plucked the cigarette from Zayn’s fingers and ignored his best mate’s huffed laugh in favour of lighting it.
“Ah, it’s a mystery mate. Nothin’ to do with my husband performing or anything,” Zayn deadpanned, but the smile on his face grew when Louis tucked himself under Zayn’s arm.
“Hush Zayn, people will find out about us if you keep this up.”
Before he could take the first drag, Zayn was pulling him into a tight hug, squeezing him until he was sure he’d burst.
“‘m so proud of you, Lou. You were so brave.”
There were people moving all around them, but they were safe and hidden; not from everyone though, because Liam ducked out to join them, all three of them hugging for what felt like both hours and seconds all at once.
“You smashed it, Tommo. Proud of you.”
Louis burrowed further into their embrace. “Thanks, Payno.”
It was 4am by the time Louis tumbled wearily back into his room, completely sober but exhausted. He’d seen his family briefly before they went to bed with plans to see them the next day, celebrating with everyone else he loved and avoiding everyone he didn’t (as much as possible, anyway).
Harry hadn’t contacted him once.
He hadn’t let it get to him while he’d been out, had purposefully avoided thinking about it because he knew it’d destroy him.
Now though, with nothing to distract him in an empty hotel room with a silent phone, he finally realised what he’d done. While it was possible that Harry’s phone had died, or that he’d fallen asleep, Louis knew that it wasn’t really possible; Harry was too kind and cared too much to let either of those things happen for something so important to Louis.
While his coming out had gone perfectly, exactly as he’d planned, another harsh reality settled in his bones.
He’d ruined everything by basically confessing, in front of the entire world, that he loved Harry, and had since he’d known him.
Louis sat down heavily on the bed, ignoring all of Liam and Zayn’s texts, suddenly dizzy with the weight of what had happened. He’d never be able to see him again, not really, not without the heavy awkwardness of this situation settling over them. Harry would never touch him again in the same casual, gentle fashion, would never tell him that he loved him, or kiss his temple or nose. He’d never be able to listen to Harry’s honked laughter over dinner, or his soothing hum when Louis was trying to sleep on his chest.
He’d lost his best friend, the love of his life, his soul mate, all because it’d become too much for him to carry on his own.
Maybe now, he could finally try to get over him, even though he’d never succeeded before.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t hear the knock on the door to begin with. It was only when it became a constant hammering that he hauled himself up, frustration licking at his skin as he swung the door open, eyes on the floor.
“Lads, if I don’t answer your texts it’s because I don’t want to fucking talk, okay?”
“I was hoping you’d make an exception for me.”
Louis’ eyes snapped up just as he stopped breathing, and then he was frozen in the doorway. There was a long moment where they just stared at each, blue straight into green, and then Louis tried to speak.
“You didn’t call me,” he croaked out. “You promised you’d call me after.”
“I know,” Harry whispered, and Louis could see how nervous he was. “I’m sorry. I thought this might make up for it.”
“You flew to Madrid.”
Louis shook his head, a sob rising in his chest. “Why?”
“You came out, Louis, during a performance in front of the entire world.” Harry sounded awestruck, but Louis couldn’t even look at him. “I’ve never been more proud of you, baby. Why didn’t you tell me you were gonna do it?”
Louis heard his voice crack as he answered. “Because it wasn’t the only thing I admitted.”
There was a tense silence before Harry seemed to let the words rush out.
“Your songs are incredible, Lou. So, so, gorgeous, but I need to know, please,” Harry murmured softly, but the desperation was still clear.
“Is that why you came here?”
“I had to know, Louis.” Harry seemed to be begging, his voice still low and soft. “Did you write those songs about me?”
He didn’t know how to answer, still couldn’t read the situation properly, until his brain kicked in just in time for him to realise that Harry fucking flew to Madrid, pretty much straight after his performance if his timing was right.
“Harry, I - .”
Harry ignored him. “You sang about Princess Park, straight after you said you were gay and loved a man. Louis, you sang about Princess Park, and it wasn’t even subtle.” He shook his head, an incredulous laugh leaving his lips, but the smile that stayed was genuine. “The only way you could’ve been more obvious is if I was there, with you, on stage,” Harry whispered, and Louis couldn’t pry his eyes away from the fidgeting of his fingers. “Please, tell me the truth. Please, Lou.”
It was now or never.
“Yes,” Louis whispered back, eyes never leaving Harry’s, “yes, I wrote them for you. Almost all of my songs are for you.”
Harry let out a small sob as he stepped into the room, kicking the door closed with his foot as he took Louis’ face in his hands, his hold strong and sure even as he shook where he stood. Louis was already overwhelmed, and Harry’s frantic thumbs and fingers stroking over his cheeks and ears weren’t calming the race of his heart.
“Why? Tell me why, I have to hear it from you.”
Louis nuzzled into Harry’s palm, completely unable to believe that this was really happening as something heavy settled in the room, something both crushing and soothing all at once. “I’ve been in love with you since I met you in that bathroom, and I’ve only fallen more in love with you every day since.”
“I - ,” Harry took a deep, shuddering breath, “you love me? You’re in love with me? Louis, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t know how to, Harry! I didn’t want to risk losing my best friend, and then we kissed on New Years all those years ago and you were so sweet the next day, trying so hard to let me down easily and - .”
Harry was shaking his head violently, his palms warm against Louis’ cheeks. “I wasn’t trying to let you down. I was trying to tell you that I wanted to be with you, and then you rejected me before I could even say it.”
Oh fuck, please no.
“We - we could’ve been together back then?” Louis choked out, and the only thing keeping him together was Harry in front of him, pure and real.
“I don’t know if we were ready back then, Lou, if we would’ve survived.”
“We would’ve.” Louis was sure, had never been more sure of anything. “We would’ve made sure. If we’d wanted it enough, it would’ve worked.”
Harry moved forward to press their foreheads together, his fingertips gliding through the hair at the nape of Louis’ neck. “We wanted it, we were just idiots.” He laughed then, a bright, airy sound that filled up the room with light, and Louis couldn’t help but join in. “I loved you then, and I love you now, and I’ve loved you every moment of every day since then, and I can’t believe that you’re here in front of me, like this.”
Louis tried to stop the first tear from falling, but it was useless. “You love me?”
There were soft lips pressing against his closed eyelids as Harry’s hand cradled his face, soft yes’ being whispered into his soul. He felt cherished, adored, loved, and suddenly every single thing they’d gone through was worth it.
“Louis, I - can I kiss you?” It was tentative, like Harry was unsure of himself, and Louis never wanted to hear him like that again.
Louis didn’t even have to think about it.
He’d been imagining their first kiss to be almost aggressive, years of pent up tension and emotion culminating in something that was too intense to take slowly. He’d imagined slamming into walls, nipping teeth and desperate hands, but he hadn’t been prepared for this.
Everything gentled further when Harry trailed careful touches over his cheeks, brushing along his temples, smoothing over his eyebrows and down the bridge of his nose with such a reverent expression that Louis had to close his eyes again just to keep breathing. A hand ran through his hair to palm at the back of his head, and when Harry’s free hand moved back to thumb across his bottom lip, Louis’ hands flew up to fist in Harry’s hoodie.
“Harry,” Louis murmured, eyes opening slowly as he pressed a kiss to Harry’s thumb. “I’ve waited long enough for this, please don’t tease me.”
“Oh baby,” Harry sighed, stepping closer to press their bodies flush together. “If you think this is teasing, you have no idea what else you’re in for.”
Heat flashed down Louis’ spine to settle in his stomach at the heavy promise, but before he could respond, Harry was tilting his chin up to kiss him.
It was a light pressure at first, a tentative touch to ground them both even when Harry sucked Louis’ bottom lip softly, but when Louis ran greedy hands up Harry’s hoodie to scratch lightly at his stomach, Harry’s mouth dropped open on a sigh, and everything shifted.
Louis gasped when Harry’s hand twisted in his hair, tugging lightly as he licked into Louis’ mouth. Everything was hot, wet, exactly what he’d always wanted, and he opened his mouth to the insistent press of Harry’s tongue, groaning when it just caused Harry to kiss him deeper, harder, holding him tightly against his chest until Louis had to pull back to breathe.
“How long? I have to know Haz, how long?” Louis panted, rucking up Harry’s hoodie even as he waited for an answer.
Harry pulled it over his head and immediately tugged up Louis’ polo, throwing it across the room so he could run searching hands over Louis’ chest. “Since X Factor.” He hardly gave Louis time to breathe before he was walking him backward, pushing him down onto the bed to straddle his hips. “I’ve wanted you since X Factor, knew I loved you at Princess Park when you unpacked all my boxes for me when I had to go to that meeting and you set up my CD’s in alphabetical order.” And then he was lunging down to slam their lips together, fisting his hand in Louis’ hair as he ground his hips down.
Louis was dizzy, his nerves alighting at every swipe of Harry’s tongue, every tug at his hair, the feeling of Harry hard against him. He arched up, pressing them closer together as Harry ran a hand down his chest, teasing over his stomach and moving around to cup his arse, pulling him harder into his body.
“What do you want, Lou? I don’t want to overwhelm you, we don’t have to do anything, I know it’s your first time with anyone, and I - ,” Harry swallowed heavily, grinding down slowly as Louis bucked his hips up, “I just don’t want to pressure you into anything. Fuck, that sounded so condescending, I’m sorry, it’s not what I - .”
“Love, you’re not, oh fuck, pressuring me into anything,” he breathed, raking his blunt nails over Harry’s back until he shivered. “Just because I haven’t been with anyone doesn’t mean I don’t know what I want. S’not like I haven’t touched myself, fingered myself imagining it was you. I’ve thought about you more times than I can even - fuck, right there Haz - comprehend, your fingers and tongue and cock making me come.” Louis ran his hand down Harry’s stomach to palm him over his slacks, watching him in awe as he let out a guttural groan. “I want you, c’mon.”
And then Harry was kissing him harshly again, fierce and honest. Louis moaned, Harry swallowing the sound greedily and chasing it with his tongue, and Louis had to pull back again to breathe gulps of air into his lungs. It didn’t get rid of the taste of Harry on his lips, couldn’t distract him from the way that Harry’s fingers dug into his arse, pulling his cheeks apart slightly through his trousers, didn’t lessen the arousal that shot through him as Harry traced the vein of his neck with his tongue.
“Haz, darling, please,” Louis gasped out as Harry groaned into his neck, mouthing at his skin and nipping lightly. “It’s been so long, been so long, c’mon love, c’mon.”
Even as Harry trailed wet kisses down his body, Louis could suddenly hear him humming. It startled a laugh out of him when he realised what it was.
“Maybe we’re fireproof,” Harry sang softly, the wide grin on his face a complete juxtaposition to the teasing way his fingers deftly undressed them both.
“I wrote that for you,” Louis sighed, and then Harry froze above Louis where he’d just been about to blanket him completely, skin to skin.
“I - what?”
Louis reached up and tugged Harry down, moaning at the hot slide of their bodies. “I wrote Fireproof for you.”
And just like that, with Harry there to catch him, keep him safe and warm and satisfied and loved, Louis let himself freefall.
There's a lil' epilogue to follow, but just a heads up! It's pretty much just fluff and smut :)
The look of pure joy on his face had been obvious the next day when he’d gone to meet fans out at the front of his hotel, a smile that he hadn’t been able to calm before he wandered out to a sea of rainbow.
He’d woken up next to Harry after a 20 minute nap, naked and tangled up in each other, and had just.
Let himself stare.
They hadn't even spoken really, had just ran gentle caresses over warm skin, pressed relieved kisses to flushed cheeks and swollen lips until they'd drifted off. Louis had kept his eyes closed almost the entire time so he could focus purely on the feeling of Harry there with him, and while some of it was the same as it had been, there was a soft undercurrent lapping at them that reminded Louis that everything was different now.
It wasn't just soothing hands skimming down Louis' back, or calming words whispered in his ear as best mates that'd torn him apart just as much as they'd kept him together. It was parted lips sucking marks into his throat, a hand pulling him against Harry's body to settle Louis' leg over his hip, and so many murmured I'm in love with you's that Louis couldn't keep track.
They hadn't slept together, not completely, and even though there was a desperate sort of hunger sitting in Louis' bones, waiting, he was content for the here and now.
And now, with the dull morning light filtering in, he kept his eyes open, and took in every detail that he could. He wanted to let Harry sleep, he did, because they were both fucking exhausted.
His hand reached out to brush the hair from Harry's face anyway, trailing careful fingertips along his temple, his cheek, the sharp cut of his jaw. He didn't even flinch when Harry's eyes fluttered open, or when a soft smile spread across his face. Louis hummed and dragged his thumb along Harry's bottom lip.
"Morning, darling." Louis shifted closer until their lips were just brushing, and Harry's eyes were crinkling so much that Louis could hardly see green.
Harry ran his hand up Louis' thigh, skimming along his side to drag him closer. "Morning, baby." A soft kiss, a careful suck. "'m I dreaming?"
Louis let out a loud laugh, startling in the silent room. "I really fuckin' hope not." Another stolen kiss, longer this time, fingers digging slightly into each other where there'd only been soft touches so far. It was only then that he remembered something, and couldn't hold it in. "Why didn't you tell me that you loved me at some point? You asked me last night, and now I wanna know."
They could hear their phones buzzing, but Harry ignored it. "I'd already been rejected by you once that New Years Eve, and then again on that flight to Australia. I couldn't go through it again." He slid both arms around Louis, holding him as close as possible, no barriers between them, and Louis had never felt so at home in a city he'd never lived in.
"I'm sorry, I -."
Harry kissed him quiet. "No more apologies. We've been stupid long enough. Kiss me, c'mon."
Louis lost himself for a while in the heat of Harry's mouth, the strength in his arms, the slow way he touched until he had to break away to head downstairs.
Not without one last kiss, though.
It'd been less than 12 hours since Louis had changed his entire life, but the sun was still warm, the air still calming, and his fans were still screaming for him just outside the hotel door. There were more than he could ever remember seeing though, and the rainbow flags and supportive signs and cheers filled his heart until he wasn't sure that he could cope.
He kept darting away from his security when they tried to steer him back inside, shooting them cheeky grins and pleading eyes before skipping off to get more photos. By the time he made his way back upstairs, he was full of energy, and he was grateful for it the second he stepped in the room, and Harry slammed him back against the door. He couldn't remember being hoisted up, but he was being tossed onto the bed before he even realised.
"Haz, fuck me, c'mon."
There was a strangled groan as they struggled to undress each other, and then Harry was hovering over him to kiss him, and Louis melted back into the mattress.
Harry pulled back to rest on his elbows, cupping Louis' face and kissing him firmly, once, twice, three times. "Are you sure? Lou, you have to be sure?"
"I'm sure, love. Please."
It was overwhelming, to finally be able to have Harry in ways he’d only ever dreamt of before, and it seemed to burst through in flashes of heat and colour, touches and sensations mingled with whispered confessions and words of love as time skipped around them.
Harry’s fingers wrapped around his cock as he moaned, arching into his body as Harry sucked marks into Louis’ neck. He clung onto him desperately, digging his nails into Harry’s back as he twisted his fist over the head.
“I wrote Sweet Creature for you, all for you, could never have been about anyone else, fuck you’re beautiful like this, baby.”
Louis’ fingers tangled in Harry’s hair, but this time it wasn’t purely for comfort or affection. It was from a searing, wet heat as Harry swallowed him down, hands trailing gorgeously over his thighs while he trembled, overcome with it all. The touch grounded him, reminded him this was Harry.
“Home was for you. You make me feel like I’m home Harry, all the time, no matter where we are.”
He’d flipped them now, desperate for a taste of Harry he’d never had before. The slightly sweet, slightly bitter taste of Harry on his tongue as he sucked him slowly was addictive, the unfamiliar weight in his mouth fanning the stifling heat around them.
“I rearranged my entire schedule so I - I, don’t stop, please, could be in Italy when you were there.”
Harry had hauled Louis up into his lap, kissing him posessively as long, slick fingers gently fucked into him, slowly stretching him open, lightly grazing over the bundle of nerves deep inside Louis as he cried out, soft hair tangled still in his hands as they pushed Harry into marking his chest.
“I cried when I - oh, Haz, need you - saw you in your outfit for the Met. So proud of you, looked so beautiful.”
Then he was being gently laid back as if he was precious, stroked carefully until Harry knew he was ready. There was a deep, searching kiss that promised everything, their present and their future, everything they’d been and everything they could be, would be now, together.
“I love you.”
A slow shift of Harry’s hips, a brief sting that was completely worth it, an intense feeling of fullness and a pleasure like nothing Louis had ever known. Every time Harry moved, intense and slow or hard and perfect, it stole the breath from Louis’ chest until all he could manage was gasped versions of Harry’s name. When his own was echoed back at him, whispered and groaning and life changing, he never had a chance. He spilled over Harry’s fingers with a loud cry, clutching Harry tightly when he came inside Louis with a stuttered curse breathed into his neck.
“I love you too.”
After everything they’d been through, together and alone, every happy moment, every second that they’d suffered, every concert and early morning and jet lagged mistake had led them here, with other, in love.
And this time, this time, Louis was sure they were going to win.